Thursday Thoughts: Hannah Rohde - Coreference and the context of alternatives

Mar 3, 2016 at - | IRCS Conference Room


Hannah Rohde (Edinburgh) will be the "Thursday Thoughts" speaker on March 3rd.


Abstract: The study of pragmatics examines the mechanisms underlying speakers' ability to construct meaning in context and hearers' ability to infer meaning beyond what a speaker has explicitly said. These abilities are taken to depend both on the properties of what is said as well as on considerations of what isn't said. In this talk, I present a series of psycholinguistic studies that highlight how the context of alternatives provides knowledge that is brought to bear on one pragmatic phenomenon, coreference. The context of alternatives is shown to guide *how* speakers refer (probabilities over choice of referring expression), whereas coherence-driven cues regarding alternative meanings capture *who* speakers are likely to refer to (prior probabilities over choice of mention). Listeners in turn can be understood to combine these probabilities to estimate the likely referent of an ambiguous expression, as predicted by a Bayesian model of coreference. What is most intriguing about the data is the apparent independence of contributions from factors related to message meaning (implicit causality, coherence) and those related to message form (information structure). I also discuss work in two other coreference domains in which the context of alternatives is relevant: the assessment of production costs and the role of focus marking in evoking a set of alternatives.